104 Novel ideas on health gets grant from Gates Foundation

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New Delhi, Oct 23 (UNI) The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced 104 grants to explore bold and largely unproven ways to improve global health and an Indian scientist has won the grand challenge award for a project on novel approach to prevent and cure HIV infection which causes AIDS.

The grants of 100,000 dollars each will be made to scientists from 22 countries and five continents. They mark the first round of funding from Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help lower the barriers for testing innovative ideas in global health.

The winner of Grand Challenges from India is Karthikeyan Kandavelou, Project Leader, Pondicherry Biotech Pvt Ltd for his project 'A Novel Approach to Prevent or Cure HIV Infection.' The project will explore genetic approaches to fighting HIV/AIDS, by attempting to mimic the natural resistance to HIV found in some people.

Projects approved cover a wide range of innovation, including a "mosquito flashlight" to prevent malaria transmission by disrupting wavelengths, self-destructing TB cells, and studying anti-infective properties of the eye to help prevent HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease. Mimicking effective natural processes to limit infectious diseases.

The initial set of grants will inject fresh perspective into research for preventing or curing infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and TB, and limiting the emergence of drug resistance.

Successful applicants showed how their project falls outside the current scientific paradigms and could lead to significant advances if successful - in just two pages.

''We were hoping this programme would level the playing field.

So, anyone with a transformational idea could more quickly assess its potential for the benefit of global health,'' said Dr Tachi Yamada, president of global health at the Gates Foundation, who announced the grants at the fourth annual meeting of the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative.

As many as 104 grants were selected from nearly 4,000 proposals, with the geographic distribution of applicants largely matching the geographic distribution of awards. The applicant details were not provided to reviewers, helping them to focus on the innovation of the idea instead of a scientist's credentials, geographic location, or organisation's reputation.

All levels of scientists are represented, including young investigators who have never before received a research grant, and those who were applying experience from other fields like bioengineering. Grants were made to universities and other nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and six private companies.

Pattamaporn Kittayapong at Mahidol University in Thailand will explore new approaches for controlling dengue fever by studying bacteria with natural abilities to limit the disease. Suzanne Fleiszig at the University of California, Berkeley, in the US will focus on the natural defenses of the human eye to discover new classes of broad-spectrum anti-microbial agents.

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